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MAGIDSON, MARK – BARAKA (2009 DVD re-issue)

After spending three years of his life making it, producer/editor Mark Magidson still finds Baraka a satisfying movie experience. When the film came out – and ever since – it has made an impact on everyone who sees it. Now it’s being reissued on Blu-ray and in a 2-disc DVD at the highest definition ever attempted for a film. But it’s about the inner experience, not about the technology, Magidson tells Andrew L. Urban.

“It’s been very rewarding,” says Mark, “to have had such a long ride and to see it reborn in this new format.” But Magidson points out that the film’s enormous fan base is not driven by the technology, “It’s driven by the film’s visual storytelling.”

For the Los Angeles based Magidson, primarily an engineer and inventor, film is a creative outlet. The Baraka team – including director/cinematopgrapher Ron Fricke, composer Michael Stearns and Australian musician Lisa Gerard – is working on a new non-verbal film for completion in 201, titled Samsara – dealing with the themes of birth, death and rebirth. Lisa Gerard, as one of the Dead Can Dance group of the 90s, features on the Baraka soundtrack with a track from the group’s collection, probably the first time, but certainly not the last, that their iconic music has graced a movie soundtrack.

"non-verbal film music"

Stearns, who worked with the Magidson team on Chronos, “understands non-verbal film music, and he likes not to sound like the one composer all the way through. His intention is to give the viewer an inner experience.” In that he succeeds. “The goal of the film,” says Magidson, “was to reach past language, nationality, religion and politics.” Fricke calls the film “a guided mediation on humanity.” It was a shoot of unprecedented technical, logistical and bureaucratic scope – detailed in the disc’s extensive documentary Bonus Features.

Magidson had a small team of five when they made Baraka, traipsing around the world (24 countries) and having a rough idea of what they wanted, but never being able to storyboard it. “”Lots of things change,” says Mgidson. “We did our reasearch, but then some things just weren’t as visually impactful as we had imagined. But then we discovered things we didn’t know … like in Iran, we didn’t find Persopolis as visually great as we hoped, but then our local guide told us about the mirrored masks, which make extraordinary footage.”

"visual splendour is astonishing"

Painstakingly restored and digitised, the images, even on standard DVD players – are almost 3D in quality. On Blu-ray (I am told) the visual splendour is astonishing, with the transfer in 8k UltraDigital HD. The official release says: “For the first time in history, a 65mm feature film camera negative would be mastered at 8192 pixels of resolution, creating a digital file in excess of an astounding 30 terabytes in size. This frame-by-frame scanning process – designed specifically for Baraka by FotoKem Laboratory – has produced a detailed HD image unlike any ever seen.”

Or should that read: a detailed HD image unlike any ever felt.”

Published April 9, 2009

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Mark Magidson


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